The battle over the minimum wage

There’s been no shortage of controversy over the move by Kansas City, Missouri, to raise the city’s minimum wage.

Whether it survives remains to be seen, but we do believe there are some important figures that all sides in the debate should consider, especially at a time when the economy is still in its agonizingly slow recovery.

While raising minimum wages is tremendously popular, there’s an emerging recognition that the same policy might not work in every place.

Recently, Hillary Clinton declined to support the $15 minimum everywhere, even after telling fast-food workers that she supported their fight for exactly that. Even Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — who strongly backed a $15 minimum in his own city — said that some cities should probably aim lower.

In case you missed the news, the city council in Kansas City voted to raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020.

That’s a healthy bump over the $7.65 now required under state law. To put it into proper context, $13 an hour works out to be 74 percent of the metro area’s median wage. Meanwhile, the U.S. minimum wage rate, $7.25 an hour, equals 42 percent of median pay.

You can see why some people — even those in favor of raising the minimum wage — think that Kansas City might have gone too far.

“It’s a much bigger increase for someplace like Kansas City, and therefore it can do a lot more damage,” Kenneth Troske, a professor of economics at the University of Kentucky, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

A Kansas City business group has launched a referendum to oppose any increase that exceeds the state’s minimum of $7.65. The group has until Aug. 25 to gather about 3,400 signatures for its referendum.

We’ll be tracking developments on this news. We know you might have questions about all of this. The city has set up a helpful website with the ordinance language and more information at www.kcmo.gov/minimum-wage.

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